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We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and we have made our views well known, including through the Universal Periodic Review process and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Human Rights Report. We have four priority areas, one of which is women's rights. At the root of the problem of the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia is the guardianship system, which grants a male relative authority over every woman. The male family member can refuse permission for the woman to study, travel or work. There is also an extensive system of segregation which limits women's ability to play a full part in public life. Women, with some exceptions, may not work in a workplace with men. They may not drive.
The Saudi Government have so far failed to remove the main institutional barriers to women, most notably the guardianship system. We continue to take every opportunity to urge the Saudi Government to remove the guardianship system of women, as the UK recommended at Saudi Arabia's Universal Periodic Review in February 2009. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my honourable friend Alistair Burt discussed human rights during his visit to Saudi Arabia on 26 and